Jason Dasey

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am

Arriving 60 seconds late for his first training session at an elite private school in Tokyo, 14-year-old Jason Davidson was ordered to shave his head. Worse still, his teammates received an identical punishment and the import from Australia was immediately an outcast.

Within the soccer programme of the Seiritsu Gakuen High School, the junior international had to overcome a total culture shock including the language barrier, extreme rules and loneliness. It would be more than 18 months before he earned the acceptance of his teammates, even though he is part Japanese.

Yet he stuck with it and things eventually turned around. And after three years within one of the renowned junior feeder systems for the J-League, Davidson returned to Melbourne as one of the AFC region's hottest prospects.

Today, the now 18-year-old defender is playing for Pacos de Ferreira in the top division in Portugal and has set himself a lofty target of becoming the first Australian to play for Spanish super club Real Madrid.

'I know it's a huge dream, but I have learnt in my years in football that anything is possible,' Davidson said. 'My Japanese experience taught me about discipline, respect and keeping your thoughts to yourself, which have helped me be accepted by my new teammates in Europe.'

Davidson, a robust left full back, debuted at former European champions Porto in January, coming on as a substitute at the Estadio do Dragao. Since then, the teenager has made a handful of appearances, including a memorable second-half cameo matching up against Argentina superstars Javier Saviola and Angel de Maria before 42,971 fans at Benfica on March 7.

Being on the international stage is not new to the Davidson family. His father, Alan, is a former Nottingham Forest defender who played under legendary manager Brian Clough for two seasons in the 1980s and was also a high-profile import in Malaysia. Capped 51 times at international level over 11 years, Alan Davidson is considered one of the first prominent Asian-Australian sports stars. His Japanese mother met his Australian father when he was working in the navy for the occupation forces after the second world war.

And like his son, Jason, in Japan, Alan Davidson endured a tough childhood growing up in Melbourne in the 1960s as the only Japanese family in the city's vast western suburbs.

'We are from a Japanese samurai family so my brother and I were always fighting our way out of racist problems,' Alan Davidson said. 'But I do know that I am not as mentally strong as Jason or could not have survived what he did in Japan. I thought he would last only two or three weeks and yet he came back after three years, speaking fluent Japanese to bring tears to his grandmother's eyes.'

With a half-Japanese father and a mother of Greek heritage, Davidson was eligible to represent three nations. But on his return home from Tokyo, he pledged his allegiance to his birth nation after selection in the Australian squad for last year's Under-20 World Cup in Egypt.

So far he's made four appearances at under-20 level, alongside some teammates almost two years his senior. And with many of the ageing Australian side expected to retire after June's World Cup, Davidson has been earmarked to earn his first senior cap before next year's Asian Cup in Qatar. Already comparisons have been made with another left-sided player, Harry Kewell, who was granted his Socceroo debut at the age of 17 in 1996.

Davidson has the extra incentive to succeed in Europe after being ignored by his hometown A-League club, Melbourne Victory, even though he was last season's Under-21 Player of the Year in the Victorian State League, a second-tier competition.

Playing for Real Madrid may be pie-in-the-sky stuff, but the younger Davidson is slowly working towards his target, one day at a time, in neighbouring Portugal.

'His managers and I felt that Portugal suited him because he's a ball player and loves to play,' Alan Davidson said. 'We all believed that Portugal was the place to go because it's close to Spain in both location and style.'

Jason Davidson added: 'I prefer the Spanish style over the English game because Spanish football is a lot more technical, whereas EPL is quick passing and very direct.'

His Pacos teammates know little about his Japanese heritage and actually think him more of as a Greek Australian than anything to do with Asia, courtesy of his mother, Effie, whose parents both emigrated from Greece.

Yet those three testing years in Tokyo are behind almost everything that Davidson does on and off the football pitch. That and his close bond with his father, considered one of Australia's greatest ever defenders, who predicts that Jason will turn out to be a better player than he ever was.

'As parents, it was the worst day of our lives leaving him in Tokyo as a 14-year-old, but overcoming many hardships and hurdles taught him about himself and developed resilience and determination,' Alan Davidson said. 'Now he's in the right environment for his football development, I believe Jason can achieve anything he wants as long as he stay focused, disciplined and works hard.'